‘The emergency we all feared’: With abortion rights in peril, Massachusetts officials vow to fight for reproductive justice

Alison Kuznitz | MassLive | May 3, 2022

Top Massachusetts elected leaders and advocates fervently sought to protect abortion rights throughout the country during an impassioned press conference outside the State House in Boston Tuesday, following Monday night’s alarming revelation from Politico that the Supreme Court stands on the brink of toppling Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Female officials including Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Senate President Karen Spilka and U.S. Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark all condemned a leaked draft majority opinion, penned by Justice Samuel Alito, that argues abortion issues must be returned “to the people’s elected representatives.” Alito, excoriating Roe as “egregiously wrong from the start,” contended that a “right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions,” according to Politico.

In Massachusetts, the ROE Act — and the integrity of Roe v. Wade — is enshrined into state law, Spilka said. But the fight to guarantee women’s reproductive rights across the United States is not over, said Spilka, who lamented that she woke up “rejected, outraged (and) angry.”

To the Ashland Democrat, Tuesday marked one of the saddest days in U.S. history.

“This is the emergency we all feared. But this is America — this is a clarion call for us to take action,” Spilka said. “In America, we all have a voice. We will not be silent. We will not go quietly. We will not go into a devastating future that seeks to treat us as second-class citizens.”

Wu, invoking Boston’s barrier-breaking history, said it is the city’s responsibility to once again serve as a “beacon for the rest of the country” and defend reproductive justice for all Americans, including young people and pregnant survivors of sexual assault.

The Supreme Court has yet to overturn abortion access, Wu said as she emphasized that the leaked Supreme Court is not a final decision.

“But it is one that we’ve been expecting with a right-wing court about to strip away basic protections that so many fought for,” Wu said. “A fringe minority determined to drag us back into the dangers of decades past into the shameful shadows of policies that our grandparents feared. Abortion care is health care — reproductive justice is gender justice, is queer justice, is justice.”

Fighting back against the GOP is heavily interconnected with voting and the electoral process, Clark argued.

She warned that even Americans who, for now, may feel unaffected by the potential demise of Roe v. Wade will soon grapple with the ripple effects of dwindled civil rights. Clark, repudiating the GOP’s playbook and strategy, signaled the Supreme Court’s and lawmakers’ assaults will only worsen.

“They will come for LGBTQ communities, communities of color, for immigrant communities. They will come because they have told us they will …” Clark said. “Today we are faced with the reality that women are going to be forced into pregnancy — that women who have been victims of rape, incest, whose pregnancy may determine whether they live or die will not have that right to make a decision.”

In unusually fiery remarks, Massachusetts House Speaker Ron Mariano said Democrats must take back control of the U.S. Senate and House with a “working margin.” Massachusetts will continue striving to be a “beacon for all folks who need this help,” though Mariano said the state’s efforts to “combat this craziness” will falter without a Democratic majority at the federal level.

“They’re coming after gay marriage, they’re coming after all the rights that we fought so hard to install in our laws,” Mariano said. “Pretty soon, the only laws that will matter will be for white old guys like me. Everything else will be gone. If you don’t believe that is the goal, I think you better start paying attention because they are blatantly saying that.”

Gov. Charlie Baker, who is in Washington, D.C. Tuesday meeting with Biden administration officials, rebuked the Supreme Court on Twitter.

“If SCOTUS overturns Roe, it would be a massive setback for women in states without responsible laws protecting abortion access and reproductive health services,” Baker said on Twitter Tuesday morning. “I am proud to support every woman’s right to choose and I am proud that MA has and will always protect every woman’s right to choose what is best for them.”

But the Republican leader’s showing of support glossed over his previous attempts to curtail some abortion rights during the fiscal 2021 budget process.

Baker had wanted to omit a provision allowing 16- and 17-year-olds from getting abortions without parental consent. He also proposed narrowing the parameters for abortions toward the end of the second trimester, permitting the procedure only if a pregnancy posed “a substantial risk to the patient’s physical or mental health.”

Slamming Baker’s past vetoes against the ROE Act, Reproductive Equity Now Executive Director Rebecca Hart Holder said abortion will remain legal in Massachusetts — even if the Supreme Court decision does ultimately overturn 50 years of judicial precedent.

Yet in 26 other states, abortion will be banned overnight, Holder said, triggering a “devastating unprecedented health care crisis.”

“Pregnant people, especially poor people, Black and Brown people, LGBTQ people will face extraordinary barriers to care,” Holder said. “They will be forced to travel hundreds or thousands of miles, and for too many, the cost is simply going to be too great. “Have no doubt, Massachusetts is not immune to the cascading impact of this decision.”

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